Thursday, September 29, 2005

Poem Five

I'm sticking to posting one poem a week. Any comments are appreciated.

Goa, India

What comes out of
Erik and Olaf, their decision
to just stop nodding to the trance beat and step
up to their Christian duty, warn
their countrywoman that smoking
charas is dangerous because customs
will yank her handcuffed off
the plane back to Stockholm
to test her urine
sounds even more absurd in Swedish.

Everybody’s laughter
sticks to the palm fronds. Sticks
to the waves and this sky
starred-up like the air bubbles in plastic water bottles set
on the ground in the banyan tree shade come dawn.
The party’s next phase, next place,
the rumored one at Disco Valley
cancelled. A barefoot chai wallah sets down his kettle.
“This DJ knows his morning
music.” The crowd dances one blind heat.

She has spent seven months
trap-mad in an editing suite at the art school,
patching together her documentary on how
witch madness tore claws through the heart
of Torsaker, 1674, so
everybody’s demon began to look
and act exactly like them,
except for the left eye and the torturing of horses.
Over seventy women beheaded and burned. She still
itches from learning how some were accused

of animating balls of wool of nine colors with their pinky blood
and a devil’s vow to fly and suck
any warmth from the countryside air, and cows’ milk
just before their farmers came.
All she wants now is light transgressions, to adopt
a God that’s an elephant, to touch
that English boy who brought his acupuncture kit.
Instead she gets Olaf’s self-
illustrated pamphlet on abstinence and
Erik’s claim that their band

in Norrkoping sounds
just like the Strokes.
She mutters something about Vissogar, the Sage Boys, those
itinerant orphans gaunt
with dark abilities who, posted outside churches,
pointed out Satan’s mark, got paid in gold.
Sun too high she’ll return to the guesthouse, sandy sheets,
the back of handsome Olaf’s sober motorcycle,
wobbly and awkward of touch, a vague
unease that someone’s been using her footprints to cover their tracks.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Big O No

Because I don't like to deal with and because my neighborhood record shop didn't even have it in the system (that happens there way too often) I Googled this album I've been really excited about, Calcutta Slide Guitar by Debashish Bhattacharya (how can that be anything but awesome, ragas played on slide guitar...damn!), and it directed me to the awesome world that it is So cheap! And the selection! I got Soft Machine's BBC Sessions , Phil Ochs' Rehearsals for Retirement, Jon Hassell/Brian Eno - Fourth World Vol. 1: Possible Musics all much cheaper than at Amazon. I'll always put my local shop first, of course, but if they can't get it for me then I'm going on-line and...the cheaper the better, thanks. And besides, my on-line binge led to a little brick and mortar binge (is this the "trickle down" theory of the Virtual Age?). You see, breaking my one-CD-a-week rule left me so weak and dizzy I walked into another favorite neighborhood record store, Wall of Sound,and bought three discs without even blinking. Of course it was easy to justify--they were the brand new, "just-in-yesterday" limited-run Sublime Frequencies "Axis of Evil" releases (check out that label immediately if you haven't.) And with Tuesdays release of The Craft by Blackalicious...I am back in the broke business. (But, seriously, poke around I've heard they even sell furniture...)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Submission Help

It's the season...I want to send out a manuscript to some contests and I want to make sure the formatting is correct. Poet's Market 2006 says to put "your name and the title of collection in the top left corner of every page." This seems strange to me. Some contest rules are very clear that your name shouldn't appear anywhere in the manuscript while others, such as the Yale Younger, don't say anything about that. They do require a title page without contact information so that seems to imply they want anonymity... I don't want to be eliminated for having my name on the top of every page, but I also want to look like I know what I'm doing. Another thing--when submitting to journals the Poets Market says you should start every page after the first of a poem with your name, the title of the poem, the page number of the poem, and either "continue stanza" or "begin new stanza." What about for a whole manuscript? In the past I would put "continue stanza" or "begin new stanza" at the bottom right of the page (if there was going to be a page after that, natch), but the damn Poets Market says nothing about doing that! I don't wanna sound like a slave to the almighty authority of the Poets Market but I don't want to come across like a rank amateur. Any advice/insight would be appreciated. But quick, please...deadlines are looking sickly!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Poem Four

This picture was taken at the most depressing zoo I ever visited. I wish the photo of the single white bunny (see poem) would look good scanned. Another thing I saw at this zoo was a dead rat in a peacock cage. In a few weeks attentive readers of Nation of Pete will see that uplifting image exploited for Art.


New monkey crouches
into the heat of the wrong cage,

into the evidence of
a larger, clawed predecessor
dead since April still seething that sunken rot straw corner’s black damp.

The bars continue
thickening the dead yellow opposite of rescue: Sunlight slowed
by old shit
as it winced across
the splintered signboard, those
letters whose word has been scoured
obscure by luckless zoo-budget dirt.

Ocher and bleary, eternity
looks even bigger
without any foliage, furniture,

The only hope offered is that only gods earn
such constant looks of disappointment?

Across the roots-cracked walkway,
the lion’s stunted pacing of
that cage actually designed
for the perfectly blind,
white hare alone over there
in a giant cage those spirals
of dust’s flushing of time

can’t measure: The cruelty
of patience,
enduring even

those paws’
never reaching
the end of fraying.

Monday, September 19, 2005

At the Palace of Versailles

Our friend Melissa took this photo four years ago this month. A moment earlier Slick had come to our rescue by taking control of the oars from me.

Oh, how hard I had rowed! An A for effort. But the faster and more vigorous my strokes...the less the boat moved.

It was awful. You don't know humility until you've failed to propel a rowboat.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dreamboat (Resusci) Annie

If you're going to collapse you have two weeks. Yesterday I completed my biennial CPR/first aid class and I figure I'll have forgotten it all long before I'll have the chance to dislodge a razor from an unlucky Trick-or-Treater's throat. But today I'm roaring with confidence. It helps that they've really simplified things since I last took the course, a fact I find fascinating. I mean, CPR's been around a long time now, I think, but they're constantly tinkering with it, changing
the techniques. I supposed it's encouraging that they're never satisfied, that they want to evolve, but part of me wants them to just get their act together. Last week it had been two years since I learned this stuff, and a guy at work went into repiratory arrest. Fortunately I was able to call 911 while the guy was still conscious and saying "I feel funny" (he hit the ground when the EMT tried to get him off the couch), but it was too damn close for comfort. What would've really pissed me off is if I had to perform CPR and failed because I was struggling to remember how many fingerlengths below the breastbone to place my hands, and then found out that, "No, you don't need to worry about that silly stuff anymore! Just put 'em between the nipples."

The saddest thing was my boss's laugh when I asked if we'd be getting a defibilator.The guy had just demonstrated how easy they are (It speaks! It tells you what do-- FW knows about this--in a calming, authoritative voice! It's like an Oracle that wants you to change fate!) so of course we need one on the unit. But my boss's laugh: They cost $2000. An agency that resisted giving us freakin' walkie talkies is not spending $2000. Good thing we live in Puget Sound, however.
It's got the highest population of CPR trained people in the world.

Until we all forget it in two weeks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Got my books today from Ugly Duckling Presse. Beautiful!

Poem Three


Chamundi Hill, Mysore, India

Suddenly it’s amazing:
An American television youth of so many
impressive detective mustaches
and none of them were Indian.

One lesson from viewing those 20,000 murders:
Everyone who occupied the room, even for a moment, left
behind something to declare their presence: fingerprint, fingernail,
hair, thread, pencil, or, if really dumb, blood.

So what could be brushed,
and bagged into Evidence from
these streets of three thousand years of people

building to a billion, and all that time intent on
shedding impurities,
spirit and body?

What downward path the bloodhound’s madness?

Smells become stinks,
baths become worthless. Enough baths and the river
lies thickened past darkness,
a cow wading in
thousands of empty plastic water bottles.

A billion people means liberty
beyond First Amendment, Hare Krishna
counts as mainstream.

The Times of India “Sacred Space” column often
quotes the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
A billion people you can do what you want.

Almost anything, piss anyplace.
Hope a small bribe can fold up the rest.
The grime fluidity, a few rupees exchange.

At any moment, India sputters,
rags and cartons,
50,000 small fires.

Worms roll into snugness
in warm stomachs of
curled-up dogs with cinder-plugged nostrils.
Everywhere settles the sunken shine of that ash
of what can’t leave here

all the way.

Spongy rot, even on
the blacker edges of the Void,
its faltering fertility
a venereal canker’s pucker.

The Unnamable’s
gummy breakdown to focused convulsions, plastic fruit,
that haughty aimlessness of privately schooled teenage Death.

The Beyond Form
stuck to your shoe.

No wonder the Shanti Guesthouse owners
get upset
if you’re not in stocking feet
to walk across their carpet.

Would you knowingly expose
their home to such manifestations

of diarrhea headache?
Open their door to such gruesomeness?

Product Recall

Poem number two has been recalled to the factory. I had liked the poem, but seeing it on the screen while imagining actual readers gave me a new perspective--the thing was clearly too long and disjointed. This feeling was seconded by a posted comment by someone who seems to have made an honest effort to sit with the poem. So back to tinkertown with that one...

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Toothbrush Redux

Here it is again. Tinkered with. I heeded your suggestions, anonymous.
Did I heed well?


Mumbai, India

His youth of
two-and-a-half American bathrooms, one sibling, so no
doubts about what was whose,
he doesn’t quite get this

supermarket promotion’s free engraving of your name
on the handle with purchase
of toothbrush. His must be the first: Despite the engraver’s shadow
hard over the sharp-eyed apprentice’s shoulder,

their machine wiped to a precisely white incisor’s
approximation of sterility,
they have to start over four times
on fresh brushes. Swinging door interruptions. The street’s

black-eyed clatter,
a bandage-for-a-sari beggar’s dropped
cup restraining her leashed monkey’s foaming lunge,
their shared mirage’s

banana-laden and mutton-weighted
sleep like being cut wide open
and dumped empty for good.
His smirk’s imperfect. It wanders

a little too far to the right and smolders
around his earlier fall for
that milk powder scam so fusty
even its perpetrators can’t believe it still works.

He blames those tiny-on-the-hot-
jagged-sidewalk bare feet of the young girls.
A flanking flirtation, flame-smart
framing their pitch with a pinky’s

dab of ash around each eye, the essence
of hunger’s raw daintiness.
That disgusting percentage he bet
the shopkeeper kept

when, soon as he turned the corner,
they returned to be sold again
that tin of milk powder he’d purchased for their “little sister.”
Close to ten dollars.

A price that even his shopaholic aunt in New Brunswick pronounces
via email so outrageous for India it should’ve
shocked him instantly to running.
He toys with having them engrave

settles on his parents’ schnauzer’s name, Dudley.
Sometimes his mother
brushes Dudley’s teeth;

that was a toothbrush
it made sense to label.

"Welcome to here."

That's what Robyn Hitchcock said to me when I approached him at my favorite coffee shop yesterday morning. It's funny how you can recognize someone instantly, even when they're completely out of context. Or course, he was dressed like he always dresses on stage, in some sort of tight green star pants or something, a black jacket perhaps...

Now I've always been a geek for celebrities and I've inherited my Mom's shamelessness in approaching them so I knew I had to go up, say something. So I told him I love his newest album (true: I bought it last week after downloading a track--his best album in a decade)and that I've seen him live fifty or sixty times
(not true: I did some rough calculating, and, over seventeen years, it's proably more like 30 times). "Oh, you're in it for the long haul." He nodded
toward the cafe walls. "My wife's pictures."

He was very nice.

Yaay, Robyn Hitchcock!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Disasters aside

Enough politics.
Back to poetry.

I've already started revising "My Brush Has My Name", and the first thing I did was take out the line that seemed to snag most people: "boar and lobster bloated parliament." You see, I carry one of those cool, black Moleskin notebooks(a gift from Blade), and I jot all kinds of nonsense in it. Things pop into my brain and I store them there as a little "image bank." I must've been flipping through it right before writing that poem because the image doesn't really fit. I had questioned it before, mainly because the vegetarianism of India--the Parliament may be bloated, but certainly not on boar. Chapatti? Well, maybe a few of them eat mutton... The two most asked questions of me in India were "Are you married?" and "Do you eat mutton?" Shows how unthinkable beefeating would be--too rude to even suggest, akin to cannibalism.

But "a lobster-and-mutton-bloated parliament" doesn't quite radiate the same decadence, huh? Either way, I canned it.

Someone asked about the Milk Powder Scam. I'm going to clarify that in my revision as well--there was no actually shoving or pushing involved in that. It was my first full day in Mumbai/Bombay and I'd already been approached by several hundred beggars wanting a rupee or two. That was overwhelming of course, especially since a sizeable percentage of the beggars (the woman with the monkey in the poem, a little boy who would not let go of my hand) were exhausting in their pursuit. So when these two little girls, geniuses of flattery and charm, told me they didn't want money,and in fact seemed insulted when I even implied they wanted money, told me that all they wanted was some milkpowder for their baby sister...I was sucker number one with a bullet. They were such likeable kids, and here they were wanting to save their little sister's life, and it must be true because what else are they going to do with milkpowder. True, I was shocked by the price, but I've never bought milkpowder before. Maybe it was a steal! And it seemed wrong to bargain while making such a generous gesture. Oh, Pete,you foolish, foolish man! Ugh, did I feel dumb when it all came together in my mind the moment they scampered away. A lesson. All I could hope was they got to keep some of the money for themselves, that the shopkeeper didn't beat them for every last smidgen of it.

Now that I've told that story, I do want to make clear that character in the poems is not ME. I mean, of course it's me, but it's really "me." As "the American." A person who consideredof getting his parents' dog's name engraved on the toothbrush, but thought that was too disrespectful and instead got this:


And that's a bag of Cheetos "Masala Balls." With one free Scooby Doo "Tazo."

There's also a lot of rupees there.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kronyism Kills

This article (linked to by talking points memo)
exposes the roots of this disgusting mess. As Blade says, "If you
can't manage a horse show, even if it's the fanciest horse show in
the world, how can manage a disaster? Any disaster?" Oh my.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Turned On

When brikinblog and RK both recommend a poetry press, you know it's going to be good. And when that press is a presse (huh?) then, well, it's going to be a place to spend your money.

Ugly Duckling Presse has some beautiful poetry books (and chapbooks) at dangerously tempting prices. I just ordered three.

Thanks for the tip and keep 'em coming.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


I love New Orleans.